Since drilling our first Bakken well in 2003, this prolific oil field has been the cornerstone of Continental’s tremendous growth. Today, the Bakken is one of the largest onshore oil fields in the United States, covering almost 9,000 square miles across North Dakota and Montana. Crude oil produced from the Bakken is among the highest quality in the world.
Our first Bakken well was drilled in 2003, when Continental and others demonstrated we could extract oil and natural gas from the tight Middle Bakken dolomite in Montana by horizontally drilling and then stimulating the reservoir rock. In March 2004, we took our first-generation technology across the border into North Dakota and completed the first economically successful horizontally drilled and stimulated Bakken well in the state.
After expanding the field geographically, we also expanded it vertically. The initial producing target was the Middle Bakken zone, but in mid-2008, we established commercial production from the underlying Three Forks Formation, which essentially doubled the reserves of the field.
Today we are completing up to 20 wells per two-square-mile spacing unit in the Middle Bakken and one or more levels of the Three Forks. We are in oil-manufacturing mode in the Bakken.
Especially important in 2016 were faster drill times achieved by our teams and the application of enhanced completion designs. Just two years ago, we believed we had reached a technical drilling limit at 17 days per well from spud to total depth. In 2016, however, our Bakken team continued to hone its processes, and we now drill that same two-mile lateral well in 12 days or less, averaging approximately 2,000 feet of drilling per day.
Similar strides were made in completion designs. In late 2016, we began completing wells with up to twice as much proppant per foot in combination with diverters and high-rate lifting techniques. The result: record Company producers like the Brangus North 1-2H2, which initially flowed 2,500 BOE per day, and the Rath Federal 5-22H, which initially flowed 2,400 BOE per day.
Our key focus for 2017 is working down our high-value inventory of drilled but uncompleted Bakken wells. We ended 2016 with 187 gross wells that are ready to complete. Completion of these wells will provide an extremely capital efficient boost to Continental’s oil production in 2017 and beyond.
The Bakken remains a long-term growth engine for Continental. Our operations are focused on the “core of the core” in McKenzie, Williams, Dunn, and Mountrail counties, where we have more than a decade of drilling inventory. We’re in the early innings of developing this world-class American oil play.